North Gulf Coast Beach Holidays
The state of Florida is one huge peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. So there is no shortage of beautiful beaches upon which to spend your holiday, enjoying the sun and lazing about. Although, sometimes not as widely known, the beaches on the west, Gulf side of the state are often said to be the best. The warm Gulf waves and fine, white sand make this area very special indeed.
Plus a stay on Florida’s North Gulf Coast is not that far from Walt Disney World in Orlando. So you can enjoy a brilliant twin-centre holiday – have a fun-packed week in Orlando and then come recharge your batteries on the North Gulf Coast and sit on the beach with a drink in hand. Let’s head down the coast...
If you like a beach with more activity (tourists, restaurants, bars, boats), Clearwater Beach is just the place. Clearwater Beach’s reputation as one of America’s finest beaches has lured countless families and couples to its wide, sandy shores and beachfront hotels. Spread along a 3-mile stretch on the Gulf Coast, Clearwater Beach straddles the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico and tranquil Tampa Bay. Plus it’s one of the closest coast beaches to Orlando and Walt Disney World. There is plenty to do here like soaking up the sun on white sandy beaches, taking a number of boat excursions – from pirate cruises and dolphin watch tours to sunset sails and fishing boats, parasailing and, because it’s right near the city of Tampa, you can head inland for some shopping or a visit a museum or the aquarium. And every night you can head over to Pier 60 to see street performers, musical entertainment, kids’ activities, arts & crafts vendors and, of course, great views as the sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico.
Further reading: Clearwater, Florida – Best beach holidays
St. Pete Beach
Beautiful, laid-back St. Pete Beach wins frequent accolades for being one of the best beaches in the U.S. It comes as no surprise considering its stunning beaches coupled with varied attractions, breathtaking resorts, and local charm. Finding your way around is easy – just hop aboard the Beach Trolley. The area beaches offer a variety of water sports and beachside adventures, from parasailing and stand-up paddleboarding to windsurfing and kiteboarding. The town is sprinkled with nostalgic old Florida motels and inns, but if you’re looking to stay in luxury or just want a photo op with a majestic backdrop, the Loews Don CeSar Hotel, known as the Pink Palace, is a must see. The Tradewinds Island Grand Resort is a favourite of families and couples alike. For a touch of history, you can visit the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum or for a bit more action, head to the Corey Avenue district with its variety of funky speciality shops, galleries, restaurants, theatre and more. A variety of special events like art walks, wine tastings, and festivals also take place throughout the year.
Further reading: American Sky’s Kieran Armstrong takes in a relaxing break at the Loews Don Cesar in St Pete.
Sun, sand and water are three things Sarasota has an abundance of, but not all Sarasota beaches are the same. Six islands line Sarasota’s extensive coastline, each revealing its own personality, recreational options and natural beauty. Siesta Key’s beaches are said to be some of the nicest. Miles of fine white sand stretch along the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico on Siesta’s western shore, perfect for long walks, or a soft place to soak up the sun. For something different, try the more laid-back atmosphere at Crescent Beach in the middle of Siesta Key, or find fertile ground for shell collecting in the coarser sand at Turtle Beach on Siesta’s southern end. Although smaller than Siesta, Lido Key’s beaches pack a surprising variety into a compact area. Longboat Key is a more private beachfront community than many areas of Sarasota, geared more to people staying at the area’s fabulous resorts than to casual visitors. And the world-class dining scene here draws people from all over. But mere relaxation is not enough for everyone. Thankfully, Sarasota has action-packed activities; attractions and sightseeing that can fill the time like a visit to the world-famous collection of paintings at the Ringling Museum of Art, or the museum grounds to John Ringling’s Ca D’Zan Mansion — a masterpiece of Venetian Gothic architecture. And with a nationally recognised opera house, ballet company, symphony orchestra, multiple theatres and interesting historic neighbourhoods, there is plenty to see and do in Sarasota.
Tranquil Destin is located on the very northwest coast of Florida on the “Panhandle” (close to Alabama) and offers some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida. Known as the Emerald Coast, the waters here do reflect the name. What started as a small fishing village, has now become a popular holiday destination with shopping, golf, activities, and spas. Still in touch with its roots, fishing is still a very popular activity – you can hop on one of the many fishing boats and spend the day trawling the seas for your supper. When its time to relax, don’t miss the 1 1/2-mile Henderson Beach State Park.
Florida Product Manager Geoff Dobson says: "When it comes to amazing beach holidays you really can’t get any better than Florida’s Gulf Coast, and thanks to our friends at British Airways it’s never been easier to get to, with direct flights from London Gatwick to Tampa International Airport now operating daily. When you arrive, pick up your convertible Mustang (well that would be my choice) and hit the open road for a holiday as action-packed or chilled as you like. For me, I’d head straight across the bay from Tampa and into Clearwater for an overnight stay at the Sheraton Sand Key. Take a stroll over to Clearwater Beach for dinner and to watch the amazing sunset next to Pier 66 which comes alive each evening with artists and performers. Next morning: it’s a stroll around Sand Key National Park before packing up the car, folding down the roof and heading down Gulf Boulevard through gorgeous little villages such as Treasure Island which is the perfect place to stop off for a seafood lunch before ending the day on St Pete’s Beach."
Article written by Lisa Lubin.